Housekeeping in Haitian Creole – Part V

Haitian Creole contains words from many languages, not least Japanese!

Haitian Creole contains words from many languages, not least Japanese! This past week, I went from knowing roughly 30 words to just 3

I have dreadful news. Non, non, the trusty Mme Josette still puts up with my clumsy attempts  at communicating in her native language. But last week, I forgot all my kreyol. Every word, but for three – M pa kompran (I don’t understand).

It was enormously disconcerting to go from a voccabulary of roughly 30 words to three! I felt like a year-old-baby – most are able to say at least three words by the time they get to their first birthday. The more talkative babble away as early as six months, though they don’t know what they’re saying.

I felt a bit like that last week. It happened suddenly, when the chaotic home manicurist Marie Yerlande unleashed a stream of kreyol at me, laced with the occasional French. It was lavalas, a flood, an avalanche. My tremulous knowledge simply drowned, leaving three fragments – m pa kompran – bobbing on the flood waters. Anyone who wonders why or how this happens should think back to the last time someone spoke very fast and furiously at you in a foreign language. Even if you have a passing familiarity with the foreign tongue, chances are you’ll be too flustered to respond fluently.

That’s what happened with Marie Yerlande’s lavalas of kreyol. It was left to Mme Josette to help me pick up the pieces – we started again; she, pointing to objects and naming them and describing simple actions in kreyol for me to repeat.

Bondye beni Mme Josette. God bless her.

Jack Kerouac

“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life”
– Jack Kerouac